Lions bank on Goulding

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The Independent Online
Great Britain could have two fit, or fittish, men available to play scrum- half as they try to save face against New Zealand here tomorrow - almost a feast after the threatened famine in the position over the past few days.

Bobbie Goulding has felt far better during his career, but has stated for the first time that he is confident of playing, despite a painful ankle that has stopped him training all week.

"It's the last match of the tour and it's a matter of putting some pride back into the Great Britain shirt," said Goulding, who had considered asking to be sent home. "The easy thing would be not to play and to leave a sinking ship, but I'm not going to do that. I don't know how many injections I'll need, but I will play."

For all that, the decision was made yesterday to call Tulsen Tollett back from Australia as back-up. Tollett was one of 11 players sent home to save money last week, after which, inevitably, a previously healthy squad began to go down like ninepins. "It shows what happens when you tempt fate," the Great Britain coach, Phil Larder, said.

"We are bringing Tollett back, hoping that we're not going to have to use him, but you can't go into a Test match without any insurance against players not making it."

Larder's biggest worry is no longer Goulding but his captain, Andy Farrell, who tried to train yesterday but had to pull out when he felt too much soreness in his side and leg. The odds are still on Farrell, whose importance as a player and as a leader have grown during this tour, at least starting the game.

"With four substitutes on the bench, it's a situation where I can probably take a risk with him," Larder said.

Almost certainly out, however, is Anthony Sullivan, while Daryl Powell is rated extremely doubtful and if Alan Hunte plays with an infected arm it will be against doctor's advice. These are the sort of complications Great Britain do not need as they try to avoid the historic rarity of a 3-0 series defeat by New Zealand.

It has happened only once before - in 1984 - and the fact that this is a younger, better and more motivated tour party than that one is a subtlety that will be lost on the record books.

One further complication is the absence of one of Larder's assistant coaches, Gary Hetherington, who was thought to be flying to Brisbane to sign players for Sheffield Eagles.

It now transpires that any players he does sign will be for Leeds, and Larder's own future destination at club level is a subject of fevered speculation, not least within the tour squad.

Larder says he can shut that out and focus on tomorrow's game. One fact that is all too easily focused upon is that whereas the Lions have a series of fitness worries, the Kiwis know exactly where they stand.

They bring in Marc Ellis to start his first rugby league international in place of the injured Richard Barnett. It will take a mighty effort for Great Britain, with all their recent upheavals, to upset New Zealand's new-found composure and stability.